I’m Victoria Male, a film industry professional who has been a member of IVY since 2016. One year ago, I launched the Your Biggest Fangirl Podcast with my good friend and collaborator Kristen Chavez. The podcast is a bicoastal operation where we create meaningful and entertaining dialogues with fans, creators and scholars to celebrate what it means to be a female fan and explore what goes on in ‘fandom,’ the space in which fans come together to enjoy and talk about the properties that they love.

Shame and the instinct to hide enthusiasm for a fandom is prevalent among fangirls. Yet, as Kristen and I embarked on this podcasting journey together we discovered that our lives as fans and as professionals were intersecting in ways that we didn’t need to hide, but could be used to enrich ourselves. In talking with our guests, we found ways we could improve our own fan experiences:

One of our first guests, celebrity and entertainment writer Kelsie Gibson initially kicked off this discussion on Your Biggest Fangirl when she shared with us how her engagement with The Hunger Games evolved as her career in entertainment news developed.

The blend of her extensive knowledge of one of the franchise’s stars and her intel of the fan community’s appetite was the source of Kelsie’s success in transforming her enjoyment of a fandom and an actor’s work into multiple professionally enriching opportunities. Her admiration of actor Josh Hutcherson led her to pitch and cover a fundraiser for his charity as well as the red carpet of the franchise’s final film installment.

Interacting with a figure you admire appropriately while conveying your zeal for their work is no easy feat, and Kelsie divulged to us how she maintains that balance:

“You want to show them you’re a fan but in a professional way. So I think the best way of doing this is telling them ‘I really love your work’ and then pointing out one specific reason why or how it’s impacted your life.”

In the case of Seanan McGuire, a bestselling science fiction author, creating work as a fan taught her the skills and provided the body of work necessary to becoming a professional. Though many scoff and giggle derisively at those who write fanfiction, when Seanan joined us on the podcast, she brilliantly advocated for the community and explained its importance for emerging writers, particularly female writers.

“Fanfic is absolutely where I learned how to write and it’s where a lot of the women I know who write today learned how to write because it is one of the only areas where the doors are not either passively or actively closed against people who don’t fit the idea of ‘this is what an author looks like.’”

Growing up, Brian Millikin was a huge science fiction fan, particularly of Star Trek: The Next Generation, seeing the writers and creators like executive producer Michael Piller as his heroes.

He was inspired:

“I knew I wanted to be a writer… I wanted to work on stuff one day that meant something to somebody the same way that my favorite shows meant to me.”

And it’s good he stuck with it! While in college, Millikin was accepted into an internship program that led him to work for Piller’s production company, and eventually he became Piller’s executive assistant. Now, Millikin was working for the man who had developed his favorite show, and the job became his foot in the door that jump-started his screenwriting career. Millikin has since come full circle, he has written for TV shows with devoted fan followings such as Haven and Shadowhunters.

When we started this podcast, one of our dream guests was Ashley Eckstein, a Disney fangirl-turned-Star Wars actress-turned fashion entrepreneur.

When she was cast as the first leading female Jedi in a Star Wars property, Ahsoka Tano, Eckstein noted the significance. Since then, she’s been tireless in building a brand that gives female fans the ability to express themselves and the things they love through fashionable fan-gear, called Her Universe. Now available at Disney Parks, Hot Topic stores and online, it has further expanded a line of children’s and men’s clothing called Our Universe.

“For me, being a fan is a responsibility to pay it forward. It’s an opportunity to use the platform I’ve been given to continue to spread the word and spread positivity and the messages of these characters.”

She herself encourages others to follow dreams and passions, as she was able to achieve her own dreams. Eckstein believes, “when you combine passion and confidence, it’s a superpower.” By being confident in her own abilities, she fought for Her Universe’s existence and growth in licensed properties. Following her example, we were confident in our own brand and mission when we initially reached out to Eckstein’s team for an interview – and it’s something we continue to strive for as the podcast expands and evolves!

Now one year later, I have been inspired to embrace being a fangirl at the production company I work for. During a staff meeting earlier this year when we discussed scouting new intellectual property for our company to develop, it occurred to me that I could use my attendance at comic conventions not only to revel and interview podcast guests, but to scout new titles and talent. Since then I have attended three comic conventions (including the industry’s largest, San Diego Comic Con) and have created a new role for myself within my company as our graphic novel coordinator. For me, it’s a perfect blend of passion and profession where I can channel all the enthusiasm I have for comics and my favorite creators into a resource that can tangibly benefit my company and career.

Instead of thinking of my investment in fandom of a hindrance, I now consider it an advantage, since I know no one can match my passion for a project. Fangirling is such a large part of who I am and it has been liberating through this process of producing Your Biggest Fangirl to let go of the shame I’ve harbored and transform it into a productive, powerful force in my career, and hope that my fellow IVY members are empowered to do the same.